28th Nov 2020

Paris seeks to drop enlargement referendums clause

The idea that future EU enlargements should be submitted to a popular vote in France has been dropped in a draft bill aimed at reforming the country's constitution.

According to the bill submitted by the French government on Wednesday (19 December), Paris' ratification of new EU memberships could be done either by popular vote or by the French "Congress" - a body comprising the country's national assembly and the senate - which would have to approve it by a three-fifths majority.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The referendum idea was initially introduced to reassure French public opinion ahead of a vote on the EU constitutional treaty (Photo: EUobserver)

It will be up to the President of the Republic to decide on the method of ratification.

The draft bill follows the recommendations of a 180-page long report prepared by the so-called Balladur committee – a high-level committee on institutional reform set up by French president Nicolas Sarkozy and released in October.

Under the committee's proposal, "any government bill authorising the ratification of a treaty related to the accession of a state to the European Union" could be ratified either by referendum, or by the Congress.

The proposal would cancel a clause introduced into the French constitution in 2005 under then president Jacques Chirac, which was to make it compulsory to submit all future EU accessions to a referendum - except the entry of Croatia which could take place by 2009 and which was exempted from the clause.

Mr Chirac's constitutional amendment was particularly targeted at Turkey, in a bid to reassure French public opinion on enlargement and increase the chances of a positive vote in the 2005 referendum on the EU constitutional treaty.

Apart from Turkey however, it would also have affected all Western Balkan countries – aside from Croatia - which are hoping to join the EU in the near future.

While Mr Sarkozy is himself a staunch opponent to possible Turkish membership of the 27-nation bloc, he has made no secret of his desire to reform much of what his predecessor had done.

He is also in favour of increasing the powers of the parliament – and of the president's accountability to the parliament.

Another controversial change introduced by the draft bill would make it possible for French presidents to address parliament – they have been banned from both the National Assembly and the Senate buildings since 1873.

The socialist opposition has already reacted against this provision saying it would violate the separation of powers, while the right-wing Movement for France has strongly attacked the idea to drop the referendum on future enlargements, in particular concerning Turkey.

The draft document is expected to be submitted to parliament by the end of January, but a final vote is not expected before the French municipal elections in March, according to French news agency AFP.

In order for it to be passed, it would have to be approved by a three-fifths majority in the French Congress.

France considers dropping Turkey referendum

A senior French official has raised the question of scrapping the clause in the French constitution making it compulsory to submit all future EU enlargements after Croatia to a referendum.

France could re-open debate on Turkey referendum

The major political question of whether France will in future hold a referendum on the EU entry of Turkey and Balkan states may be soon re-opened for discussion, following the creation of a high-level committee on institutional reform by French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Von der Leyen tells Poland and Hungary to go to court

Poland and Hungary should ask the EU's top court to assess linking EU funds to the respect of the rule of law instead of blocking the budget and recovery package, the EU Commission chief said, most MEPs backed her up.

German minister predicts rule-of-law solution in 'days'

German foreign minister Heiko Maas said the will be "able to take decisions" in the next few days on the budget and coronavirus recovery fund. Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki will travel to Budapest on Thursday.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit talks pick up pace once more
  2. MEPs back US trade detente
  3. Iran diplomat to stand trial in Belgium over 'France bomb plot'
  4. Trump says he'll leave if Biden wins Electoral College vote
  5. EU Parliament: Polish abortion ban risks womens' lives
  6. UN experts warn against racial profiling
  7. EU auditors raise red flag over maritime protection
  8. Four students charged in France's beheading case

EU pushes back against rising homophobia

The EU Commission plans a proposal to ensure recognition children-parent relations in cross border situations, and legislation to support the mutual recognition of parenthood between member states.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. Erdoğan jails hundreds for life, as EU weighs relations
  2. Italian energy giant director advising EU foreign policy chief
  3. Poland and Hungary say rule-of-law link needs treaty change
  4. Portuguese presidency to focus on social rights and India
  5. The under-reported power struggle at the top of the OSCE
  6. Poland hammered on women's rights in EU debate
  7. EU 'front-line' states want clearer migration rules
  8. Von der Leyen tells Poland and Hungary to go to court

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us